NEWBURGH HEIGHTS, Ohio — Newburgh Heights was one of the first municipalities in Northeast Ohio to require its employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine or face being fired.
Starting Thursday, unvaccinated employees will begin receiving those termination notices.
Back in May, Newburgh Heights Mayor Trevor Elkins signed an executive directive for the vaccine mandate. Council then made it a law requiring all village employees get vaccinated by Sept. 30 or face termination.
“There's two. So of all of the employees we have only two,” said Elkins.
Out of roughly 100 employees, Elkins said only two police officers haven’t been vaccinated.
“I’ve been informed recently that one of those two has reconsidered today, so I think the policy is doing exactly what it was intended to do and that is nudge people into doing the right thing and becoming vaccinated,” said Elkins.
The village’s police chief expressed opposition to the policy back when it was first proposed.
“What his concern was that there was going to be a mass kind of walk off. That just didn't transpire,” said Elkins.
News 5 spoke to the Newburgh Heights police chief off-camera Thursday.
He said the department will follow the village’s policy and is hopeful that neither of the unvaccinated officers will be terminated. But even if they are, he says residents don’t have to worry about public safety and pledged to keep the village covered. He said he would even suit up and go on patrols if necessary.
The village’s fire chief also expressed concern about the policy regarding staffing.
He told News 5 that 22 of the fire department’s employees, which was made up almost entirely of part-time staff, resigned as a result of the mandate.
“What we did to solve that problem, and prevent a staffing shortage, is we simply transitioned the fire department from part time to full time, so that we knew that the individuals we had working for us were vaccinated and we would not have to have a situation where the residents went unprotected,” said Elkins.
Four part-time firefighters stayed with the department. Of them, one was hired for a full-time position. The village hired 11 other full-timers to complete the team.
Now, the next step for the village is to see how the two unvaccinated police officers respond to their termination notices.
Elkins said they have about a week to make their decisions.
He told News 5 the village doesn’t want to see anyone get fired, but they’re making public safety a priority.
“Obviously we don't want to fire anybody, that's never our goal, that's not what we're hoping to do. These are good individuals, they're good people. They're good employees. But our job is to protect the safety of the public, first and foremost. And, and so we'll take the steps that we have to take to make sure that we do that,” said Elkins.
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